Saturday, December 06, 2014

"Woman, what has truth to do with you?" Annie Laurie Gaylor fibs about the Bible, women, and Christian history.

I believe my new book, How Jesus Passes the Outsider Test: The Inside Story, is the ultimate antidote to all things Loftus, not to mention (yet I will) one of the best books of the year.  But even as I promote that book (and I hope you'll get a copy), I'm also planning on blogging through John's latest assault on reality, Christianity is not Great: How Faith Fails.  Because while we're celebrating the birth of Jesus, his critics continue to attack him, as King Herod did long ago.  Such attacks often have the paradoxical effect of reminding us why the world still needs the "Prince of Peace."

I will begin with the chapter I was most looking forward to seeing, "Woman, What Have I to do with Thee?  Christianity's War against Woman," by Annie Laurie Gaylor, a second-generation radical.

The reason I was looking forward to this chapter is because John had challenged Christians on this point more than three years ago: what does Jesus have to do with, or for, women.  He said the meanness with which Christianity has treated women, was one of his chief reasons for rejecting Christianity.  I then gave him a very long, substantive, and I think historically persuasive answer, beginning with this post, but with a total of 24 fact-filled installments so far.  I showed that in fact, the Gospel has improved the lives literally of billions of women around the world. 

John's answer?  This little guy over here ------>

So far, Loftus has all but ignored, not just me (that can be forgiven), but the wealth of historical, sociological, and biblical facts I cited.  He knows what I've said.  But for more than three years, rather than refute these facts, or admit them, he simply continues to ignore them while repeating his (now disproven) claim. He pleads lack of time.  So Loftus has time to write and edit new books attacking Christianity, but not to take a look at mountains of contrary evidence.

Loftus also recommended three feminist books about how terrible the Bible was to me.  But that's a lame response.  My argument is historical, not primarily exegetical: that the Gospel of Jesus has in historical fact improved life for billions of women around the world.

Having ignored contrary arguments, Loftus  finally invited a radical, Annie Laurie Gaylor, to do the heavy lifting for him, and prove that Christianity is waging a "war against women."  But he did not apparently encourage Gaylor to deal with contrary evidence, either.  Like Loftus, she ignores the UN study I cited, which shows that countries with a Christian background almost always treat women much better than countries without such a background.  She ignores the historical evidence that fervent Christians were in fact responsible for ending foot binding in China, stopping the burning of widows in India, rescuing prostitutes, ending slavery, and founding schools and hospitals that have educated and saved the lives of tens of millions of women.  These people don't interest her, any more than they interest John.  She also ignores most of the many gospel sayings that portray Jesus as the most radical friend of women in the ancient world.  (What she does with those she does bother to mention, is often even more remarkable, as we'll see below.)

The Black Book of God

Gaylor lets the reader know, in the first two paragraphs, that she is going whole-hog with her critique. I underline particularly important phrases: 

"Reading the Bible made a true unbeliever and feminist out of me . . . 'Sexism' is too breezy a term for the pathological sexual hatred to be found within the covers of a book touted as 'holy.'  Like Nietzsche, after reading the Bible I felt the need to wash my hands."

"As I read the Bible with increasing incredulity, I realized how little women could be valued in a society whose most valued book utterly devalues women.  It is impossible for women to be free and equal in a culture that refers to a violent and demeaning handbook for women's subjugation as 'the good book.'  Among the most common of the biblical epithets for women are 'harlot,' 'whore,' 'unclean.'  Biblical women play one of two roles: they are either superfluous (only about 10 percent of the Bible even mentions women) or diabolical."

We can extract the following claims, implicit assumptions, and deductions about the state of mind of Annie Laurie Gaylor, here: 

(1) "Pathological sexual hatred" is "to be found" in the Bible.  This claim is rather nebulous.  Technically, it could be shown to be true even if only one instance of such hatred were located anywhere in the 66 books of the Bible, the person displaying that hatred were female, and the author's editorial stance were critical towards it.  Of course, only a very slippery writer would play that sort of game.  As we shall see, Gaylor is such a writer.  

(2)  "'Sexist' is too breezy a term for the pathological sexual hatred to be found within the covers of a book touted as 'holy.'  Like Nietzsche, after reading the Bible I felt the need to wash my hands." (343)

Anyone who knows who Nietzsche is should find this deeply ironic.  Nietzsche hated the Bible because it spoke up for the weak and oppressed, and promoted "slave morality."  Gaylor hates the Bible because it DOESN'T speak up for the weak and oppressed, because it is the morality of slave-owners.  (She thinks women are described in it as the slaves of men.)

Which brings to mind how skeptics frustrated G. K. Chesterton, before he became a Christian:

"As I read and re-read all the non-Christian or anti-Christian accounts of the faith, from Huxley to Bradlaugh, a slow and awful impression grew gradually but graphically upon my mind—the impression that Christianity must be a most extraordinary thing. For not only (as I understood) had Christianity the most flaming vices, but it had apparently a mystical talent for combining vices which seemed inconsistent with each other. It was attacked on all sides and for all contradictory reasons. No sooner had one rationalist demonstrated that it was too far to the east than another demonstrated with equal clearness that it was much too far to the west. No sooner had my indignation died down at its angular and aggressive squareness than I was called up again to notice and condemn its enervating and sensual roundness."

One example Chesterton gave was the skeptical line on Christianity and women:

"Thus, certain skeptics wrote that the great crime of Christianity had been its attack on the family; it had dragged women to the loneliness and contemplation of the cloister, away from their homes and their children.  But, then, other skeptics (slightly more advanced) said that the great crime of Christianity was forcing the family and marriage upon us; that it doomed women to the drudgery of their homes and children, and forbade them loneliness and contemplation. The charge was actually reversed. Or, again, certain phrases in the Epistles or the marriage service, were said by the anti-Christians to show contempt for woman’s intellect. But I found that the anti-Christians themselves had a contempt for woman’s intellect; for it was their great sneer at the Church on the Continent that “only women” went to it."

(3) The Bible "utterly devalues women."  That appears to mean that the whole book -- all 66 books? -- agrees that women have no value. 

(4) The Bible is a "violent and demeaning handbook for women's subjugation."  This appears to mean that the Bible not only serves a demeaning function, it is meant by its authors to serve that function.  (Which would further mean that things were better before the Bible came along, since one cannot subjugate those who are already under heal, and one does not require violence to enslave those who are already slaves.)  

However, it is a little unclear what it means for an atheist to describe the Bible as a "handbook" at all.  The books of the Bible were written over many hundreds of years, and were only made an anthology in the 2nd Century AD.  So presumably those 2nd Century editors intended to use the Bible to demean and subjugate women, as well as the authors of individual chapters?

(5)  Every single important (non-"superfluous") woman in the Bible is depicted as "diabolical."

(6) From which we can deduce that Gaylor has either not read the Bible, or is a shameless liar, and expects her readers (beginning with John Loftus) to buy the most grotesque and shameless falsehoods.  

Begin even with Eve.  Is she really depicted as "diabolical" in the Bible?  Sure, she sins first, and then after that, Adam also eats of the apple and falls.  But if she's like a demon (diabolical is the adjective for demon), why did Adam say, "Here is flesh of my flesh, and bone of my bone," before the Fall?  Why did God create "male and female . . . in His image," and "bless them," and give them the Earth?  Why, after they disobeyed God, did they sew fig leaves to cover their bodies -- do demons act as tailors?  Why are both Adam and Eve depicted as passing the buck when God comes to call?  And why does God curse them both, if one is a demon, the other human?  Why did God make clothes for the couple?  

The snake is the one on the right.
Clearly, Eve is depicted as "diabolical" no more than Adam is.  She is a fallen human being. And clearly, she is a major figure.  So Gaylor's claim is falsified by the very first female in the Bible, in the very first chapter of the Bible.   

How about Moses' mother?  Is she a minor character, or diabolical?  She heroically hides Moses from (male, apparently) Egyptian oppressors.  

Is Sarah "diabolical?"  Then why does God finally bless her (along with her husband) with land and children?  Why does God go to so much trouble to save her from the  Pharoah's lustful paws?  (While her husband chickens out and tell her to say she's just his sister?)  Having to live with a demon would seem sufficient punishment for the poor Pharoah!  And why is there a whole chapter (Genesis 23) on Sarah's death and honored burial in the "choicest of graves?"  

Is Rebekah unimportant?  Why, as a demon or insignificant woman, does she get a heroine's story, spread out over a full chapter of 67 verses?  Why is she shown as possessing particular discernment, pluck, and wisdom?  Or how, as a demon, can she possibly comfort Isaac after his mother's death?  (Genesis 24:67).  

We are not even half way through the first book of the Bible, not even to the Book of Esther, or the Book of Ruth, stories of heroines who risked their lives or left their countries behind to obey God and bless His people.  Nor have we met Deborah, who will lead the armies of Israel to victory.  We have yet to meet Samuel's mother Hannah, who prays for a son, is granted her prayer, then supports his new career as one of Israel's greatest prophets.  We have not yet read the Song of Solomon, a love story between a husband and his new (non-demonic) wife.   We have not yet heard from Wisdom, personified as a woman in Proverbs 9.  (More on Proverbs, below.)

But it is already evident that Gaylor either has never read the Bible, or is lying about its contents in the most shameless fashion.  Biblical females are obviously not all "superfluous" or "diabolical."   That is a bald-faced and easily falsified lie.  There is no other word for it.  

(7) It follows, then, that no one should believe a word she writes on this subject, at least, without carefully checking the evidence for oneself

Especially because the lies neither slow down nor let up throughout the rest of the chapter.  

(8) It is also evidence that Gaylor espouses and practices a highly subjective method of research.  She does not promise to survey human cultures and prove that in empirical fact, Christianity demonizes and subjugates women.  Rather, she deduces that it must do so -- thus the "War Against Women" subtitle of the chapter -- from the alleged nature of the Bible itself.   And this claim, too, is framed in a very strong form: 

"It is impossible for women to be free and equal in a culture that refers to a violent and demeaning handbook for women's subjugation as 'the good book.'"

"Impossible" is a strong word, indeed.  

One might again get Gaylor off on a technicality.   What does "equal" mean?  One person's freedom might be another person's slavery.  And what is equality?   One could argue that no two items larger than atoms or perhaps molecules (and even they vary by environment, velocity, etc) are ever "equal" in a fundamental sense.  Certainly males and females of almost any species are unequal: that is why we call them by different names.  And since Gaylor says it is impossible to be free AND equal, not OR equal, it follows that if women are free but not equal, or equal but not free, in a culture informed by the Bible, then her claim need not be technically false. 

But to read her claim more naturally, if less literally, Gaylor is claiming that women never are, in fact, free in biblically-informed societies.  And she deduces this, not from surveying the societies, but from her personal exegesis of Scripture.  

Yet as I showed in Part III of this series, in fact women are consistently far more free in countries with a Christian background, than in those without such influences.  

We've already seen that Gaylor is capable of simply ignoring vast amounts of evidence that tells against her opinion.  But another solution is to look that evidence straight in the face, and call it something else.  This is how she finds Proverbs particularly misogynistic.  

Gold In a Pig's Snout: Gaylor does Proverbs

By my count, Gaylor cites the Book of Proverbs seven times.  The first two citations come together on page 347: 

"Proverbs takes the revilement of 'strange' women to an intemperate pitch.  'The mouth of a strange woman is a deep pit.'  (Proverbs 22:14), 'a strange women is a narrow pit.  She also lieth in wait as for a prey, and increaseth the transgressors among men' (Proverbs 23: 27-28)"

"As I was reading this as a young woman I was appalled by the Bible's name-calling of women, its intemperate denunciation of 'whores.'  'Her house is the way to hell, going down to the chambers of death' (Proverbs 7: 9-27)." 

The other five citations also crop up together, four pages later: 

"Ugly imagery predominates: 'As a jewel of gold in a swine's snout, so is a fair woman which is without discretion' (Proverbs 11: 22), 'It is better to dwell  in the corner of the housetop, than with a brawling woman and in a wide house' (Proverbs 25: 24). Even motherhood brings no cessation of criticism: 'A wise son maketh a glad father: but a foolish son is the heaviness of his mother' (Proverbs 22: 14)."

"Proverbs, of course, offers the ultimate put-down: 'Who can find a virtuous woman?  For her price is above rubies.'  The perfect wife is portrayed as an uncomplaining workhorse who 'risest also while it is yet night.'  It is not explained why fearing the Lord is offered as this 'virtuous woman's' highest virtue (Proverbs 31: 10-31)."

I type these phrases while it is still night, having risen at 3 AM myself this morning.  But I think even most readers who are not jet-lagged, and even some convinced atheists, will find Gaylor's exegesis here combative, even willfully delusional.  

The Bible makes the astounding claim that there are bad people in the world, and that they come in two sexes.  Even these cherry-picked passages make that clear.  There are foolish sons, who cause their mothers heartache.  (But since women are all demons, who cares?  Or in Gaylor's world, do mothers not mourn for wayward children?)  

In Gaylor's world, are there no prostitutes?  Are not deadly diseases transmitted by intercourse with prostitutes?  (The Hebrews, of course, did not believe in "hell" in the developed Christian sense - but Gaylor insists on using the King James Version of the Bible, perhaps to obscure things.)  Does it not then make sense to warn beloved children against risky sexual behavior?  

Solomon or his ghost-writer then draws a remarkable portrait of a virtuous woman: see what Gaylor does with that picture.  (And see how it contrasts with the shallow sexual ideals of our own society.)  

The noble woman owns a business.  She gets up early to work at that business.  Far from "valueless," as Gaylor claims biblical women are, this woman is "worth is far more than rubies."   She chooses raw materials (31:13), buys real estate (31:16), and invests the proceeds of her business in grape husbandry.  She supplies merchants with goods.  She has "strong arms."  She brings home the bacon, and never lets her husband forget he's a man. (31:23)

Furthermore, this strong, independent businesswoman allocates some of her wisely-earned funds to charity: "She opens her hands to the poor, and extends her hands to the needy."  

The wife of noble character is "clothed with strength and dignity" and "laughs" at the challenges of the future: she has planned ahead.    

Nor is this business-lady the strong, silent type.  "She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue."

So is this ideal woman too good to be true?  Actually, one gets the feeling towards the end of the passage that the author may be writing about a woman in his life.  But he also makes it clear that in any case, she's neither quite unique or entirely imaginary: 

"Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all."  

What sort of reward does this noble women desire?  Her husband, and her children, rise up to bless her.  She has a good reputation in the public square. 

The author concludes: "Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting: but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised."  

Annie Gaylor should learn to fear the Lord, and tell the truth.  

It passes belief that a sincere feminist could read Proverbs 31: 10-31 and be honestly offended by the portrait of a noble woman given there.  

Things get worse

The rest of Gaylor's case against the Bible is mostly of this character.  (Drowning genuinely troubling passages about marrying your rapist, or the sexual subjugation of conquered Canaanites, in a sea of tendentious exegesis.)   The Bible is "anti-woman," "mandating" a "master-slave relationship to men."  The story of Lot's daughters seducing their father "has undoubtedly suggested, provoked, and excused countless incestuous assaults upon helpless young daughters by fathers or father figures."  

The concubine who is raped in Genesis 19 is cited as an "unsavory depiction of rape," never mind that the author, and the people of Israel, are horrified by the story, too.  (That is its point -- as I pointed out in The Truth Behind the New Atheism, when Dawkins also criticized the Bible for containing this terrible account.)   Apparently, reporting a crime makes you a criminal too.  Gaylor also neglects, of course, to point out that after the one woman is raped and murdered, national disgust at the incident sets off a civil war in which thousands of men also die.  And that the author's editorial point is that society was in a state of chaos, and things had come to an ugly pass.  But Gaylor, being a deeply dishonest person, implies that the Bible includes such a horrific story because it is callous towards women, simply failing to tell us the point of the story.  

Gaylor does not go easy on Jesus, or truth in relation to Jesus, either:

"Motherhood is a curse . . . When a woman sings his mother's praises, saying, 'Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts from which you sucked milk,' Jesus rebuked her: 'Rather, blessed are those who hear the Word of God, and keep it."  

This, too, is a strange passage for an alleged feminist to complain about.  The anonymous woman was not, of course, "singing Mary's praises."  She was singing Jesus' praises, with Mary as a mere rhetorical device, a useful instrument for bringing forth this wonderful teacher.   Mary is being devalued, in Gaylor's terms, by being reduced to her reproductive and care-giving capacity as an instrument, nor as an end in herself.  

And of course, Jesus was not saying that "motherhood is a curse," by any means.  Jesus was calling his listeners to something greater: women are not to be reduced to gender roles and reproductive capacity.  Wasn't that the point of feminism, a few years ago?  Blessed are those who listen to truth, and act on it.  Jesus' words dignify women, including the lady who called upon him, as moral agents who can think and act independently of typecast gender roles.  And Jesus' whole life and teaching, as I showed earlier in this series in detail, confirms this message, for instance when he tells Martha that Mary had "chosen the better part" by staying with the disciples to get an education, rather than fussing about getting dinner on the table on time.  (Which, for non-fools, does not of course imply that setting tables is a bad or evil thing, or that women who set tables are demons.  "Better" implies than the lesser thing compared is also good.)  

Such are the exegetical moves it takes to turn Jesus into a foe of women.  

Gaylor goes on, at the end of the chapter, to make it clear that what she really cares about is wholesale and easy access  to abortion.   Christianity opposes that, so it must be evil and at "war" with women.  Because all women really care about (one almost gets the feeling) is the freedom to snuff out those little lives within the womb, when they grow inconvenient.  And that is Gaylor's "woman of noble character," apparently.  

Perhaps I am exaggerating, now.  

But I am disgusted by this chapter.  I am disgusted that John Loftus claims he despises Christianity because it demeans women, but then when I offer him profuse evidence that in fact the Gospel has helped billions of women around the world, John claims he has no time to read and think about contrary evidence.  (Before repeating his slurs in public, with as big a megaphone as he can acquire, again and again, and trying to persuade others of them.)  I am disgusted at Annie Gaylor's lies.  (Such as that there are no significant women in the Bible who are not portrayed as demonic -- did I mention Jesus' mother yet?  Mary Magdalene?  The women who support his ministry?  The lady he meets by a well in Samaria with a checkered past, who gains new life and evangelizes her village?  Priscella, Paul's esteemed colleague in ministry, or the many other female coworkers he mentions by name in his letters?)  I am disgusted at the way Gaylor turns nobility into ugliness, and takes what is beautiful and wholesome, and tries to portray it as something shameful and evil, even if the only way she can do so is take a few verses badly out of context, and ignore the rest.  I am disgusted that she, with her degree from the University of Wisconsin School of Journalism, has never apparently felt the need to learn more history before condemning a book that has liberated billions of her fellow women.  I am disgusted that John felt the need to include a chapter filled with such over-the-top, and easily falsifiable, claims about the Bible, in his shiny new anthology.  It devalues the surrounding real estate, just as a contentious woman renders even a nice house near uninhabitable, and gold is unfitting in a pig's snout.  

Yesterday, I think it was, Loftus quoted the following from a philosopher named Gregory Dawes: 

"It follows that while the arguments put forward by many Christian philosophers are serious arguments, there is something less than serious about the spirit in which they are being offered. There is a direction in which those arguments will not be permitted to go. Arguments that support the faith will be seriously entertained; those that apparently undermine the faith must be countered, at any cost. Philosophy, to use the traditional phrase, is merely a “handmaid” of theology."

I replied:

"This is why, unlike Lowder, I do not see you as a serious philosopher.  It is not because you lack the brains, or the reading, it is because you lack the will.  Arguments against your position, you simply ignore.  That is why, years after I answered your claims about women in great empirical detail, citing broad international research, important historical movements that have impacted billions of women for the good, and the full empirical data of the gospels, and pointed you to all that evidence, you publish a piece of trash like Annie Gaylor's chapter in your last book, which sticks its head and the sand and hums "I am woman, hear me roar" without engaging a damn bit of contrary evidence, even though you KNOW where that evidence is to be found. 

"Philosophy, history, and science become a mere "handmaid" of your atheism. 

"You could make things more interesting." 

This is the first chapter I read in Christianity is Not Great: How Faith Fails, and as you may discern, it did not leave a good impression on me.  But it's a long book, and I do not deny there is some meat in it.  Let us continue: both because, to paraphrase C.S. Lewis, good Christian historians are needed, if for no other reason, because there are bad historians (and exegetes) out there.  And also because, it can't get any worse, right?

Next: Will Jesus Destroy the Planet?  (With cars?)  


    John W. Loftus said...

    David, keep in mind that I am in good company according to Dawes, who also said:


    "Why do you think that philosophers generally don’t seem to be bothered that the sub group specializing in philosophizing about religion are disagreeing with them? It’s a strange situation isn’t it, that a sub group of experts are disregarded by the rest of the field."


    Serious philosophers disregard the whole discipline as unworthy of serious thought. By Dawes own statement that means Lowder is not a serious philosopher. From all I can tell he only has a college degree in an unrelated discipline anyway.

    David B Marshall said...

    Yeah, John, I caught that. And as I told you on your own site, no philosophy that ignores the evidence can be called serious. Philosophy -- "love of wisdom" -- is as philosophy does, as Forrest Gump (himself not a bad one, at times) put it.

    Anyway, thank goodness not all the chapters in your book are this bad. I've read about half so far, and this is probably the worst.

    John W. Loftus said...

    I noticed your critique is not exegetical. Why not? That should bother you.

    Patrick said...

    Another example of cherry-picking verses from the bible while ignoring others.

    David B Marshall said...

    John: It should bother you that one of your authors is (a) ignoring contrary evidence (well most your authors do that), (b) grossly misrepresenting the verses she cites, (c) pretty darn close to lying about some passages.

    Do you, for example, contend that every single significant woman in the Bible is depicted as "diabolical?" (Including the ones I name above?) How could you help put such an overt and shameless falsehood in print?

    Do you contend that the Ideal Wife in Proverbs is really a horrible figure -- this lady who runs a businesses, buys product, purchase real estate, is respected around town, gives to the poor, and is full of wisdom that she teaches those around her? Seriously?

    And when are you (or your colleagues) going to deal with the facts I present, showing that the Gospel has materially benefited BILLIONS of women around the world? Come on, you offer negative facts aplenty in this book -- why not admit the positive ones, for once? Are you afraid they will destroy your argument?

    Patrick said...

    Did you read any of the references that either John or Annie Gaylor made in their arguments? I noticed that John mentioned 3 books that you seemed to have ignored yet you seem to feel slighted that they ignored your references. I noticed that you did not answer their criticisms in the way you expect them to answer yours.

    David B Marshall said...

    Patrick: I just demonstrated that Annie lied repeatedly about what the Bible says. Is this somehow not clear to you?

    There are two questions here: (a) What does the Bible say about women? (b) What impact has Christianity had on women?

    The proper primary source material for the first question is the Bible. I address this, especially the gospels and Acts, and also Paul, in my series, in great detail. Secondary sources are irrelevant. I don't need to so much as glance them, to reasonably answer the first question.

    The second question is historical. I have given detailed, systematic evidence: neither John nor Annie have dealt with that evidence -- nor the hundreds of other skeptics who seem to have read at least part of that material. (Even Ann Rice, if she counts as a skeptic, on this subject she is.)

    Get real.

    Patrick said...

    Sorry but I didn't see where you discussed how Lot offered up his daughters to be gang-raped by the local mob.
    I didn't see where you discussed the poor girl who was beaten and killed by a mob and later sliced up into 12 pieces.
    I didn't see where you discussed how Japtha sacrificed his daughter as a sacrifice to God
    I didn't see where you discuss how the Israelites were told it was okay to kill women, but not men, who were not virgins on their wedding night.
    I didn't see where you discussed how the Israelites went into other cultures and killed women just because they slept with men while keeping those who didn't for themselves.
    I didn't see where you discussed how the New Testament tells women, not men, to keep silent.
    I didn't see where you discussed how the New Testament, Paul specifically, says that women should not be allowed to teach or have authority over him.

    You also cite statistics showing that Christian women are treated better than those of other religion but similar statistics also show that women in secular societies, such as Sweden, are treated better than those in Christian cultures. The most religious state in the US is Mississippi which is also the state with the highest poverty and teen pregnancy rate. The teen pregnancy rate in less religious states is lower than those in more religious states.

    David B Marshall said...

    Patrick: Since you're just ignoring everything I DID say, why are you talking about what I didn't say? Nowhere above do I claim the OT, in particular, completely lacks negative passages about women. It is Annie who claims it completely lacks positive portrayals. That makes her a liar. Do you get how the burden of proof works?

    I explain what changed in Scandinavia in my debate with Phil Zuckerman: he did not deny my explanation. I've posted a transcript of that debate on this site. If you want to talk about Scandinavia, and can focus a little better than you have so far here, read that.

    I also talk about a few of those verses in The Truth Behind the New Atheism. But I have no need to prove there are no bad verses in the OT at all.

    ErrolRulez said...

    It doesn't sound like a very promising bit of writing. Since you didn't mention it, I am going to assume the writer didn't interact with any of the writings about Christianity and feminism? Or the egalitarians such as Christians for Biblical Equality who contribute a lot in this area? Or maybe Rebecca Groothuis' writings? Or possibly Bauckham's "Gospel Women?" Maybe some of the uniquely Jewish writings on feminist criticism and the Bible? If the author of the chapter made such claims without doing the appropriate research, what's the point of writing?

    Anonymous said...

    Patrick: "I didn't see where you discussed the poor girl who was beaten and killed by a mob and later sliced up into 12 pieces."

    Did you miss this paragraph:

    "The concubine who is raped in Genesis 19 is cited as an "unsavory depiction of rape," never mind that the author, and the people of Israel, are horrified by the story, too. (That is its point -- as I pointed out in The Truth Behind the New Atheism, when Dawkins also criticized the Bible for containing this terrible account.) Apparently, reporting a crime makes you a criminal too. Gaylor also neglects, of course, to point out that after the one woman is raped and murdered, national disgust at the incident sets off a civil war in which thousands of men also die. And that the author's editorial point is that society was in a state of chaos, and things had come to an ugly pass. But Gaylor, being a deeply dishonest person, implies that the Bible includes such a horrific story because it is callous towards women, simply failing to tell us the point of the story. "

    Patrick said...

    David, I am not ignoring what you did say but you are committing the same error that you accuse Annie of, that is you are presenting only half of the story and acting as if it was the whole story. If you are going to talk about how women are highly esteemed in the bible then you have to deal with the verses that do not treat them so well or the commands/doctrines that the church has used to hold them back.

    David B Marshall said...

    First of all, I haven't made the blanket claim that "women are highly esteemed in the Bible." We are only responsible for backing up the claims we make, and I didn't make that one. But Gaylor did make the claim that every single significant woman in the Bible is presented as "diabolical." If she doesn't want her claims debunked, she shouldn't make such stupid ones.

    Secondly, as an historian, my primary interest is the effect different religions have had on the status of women. My claim is about history. I back it up with historical evidence. That's appropriate.

    And third, even when it comes to biblical exegesis -- the focus of Gaylor's essay, not mine -- my approach is much more systematic and fair than hers. I begin by analyzing every significant reference to women in the gospels, the most important primary data for Christianity. I then do the same with Acts. Paul comes next; I've done a bit of that. If I have time, I may move on to the Old Testament. But given the nature of my claim, as I explain in that post, a full survey of the gospels is more than adequate to support my actual point.

    Tige Gibson said...

    >She ignores the historical evidence that fervent Christians were in fact responsible for ending foot binding in China, stopping the burning of widows in India, rescuing prostitutes, ending slavery, and founding schools and hospitals that have educated and saved the lives of tens of millions of women.

    It is arrogant presumption that non-Christians wouldn't equally have stopped the abuse and murder of women or opened schools and hospitals. Atheists could not do this, it had to be Christians. And why? Where in the Bible does it say to do these things? Maybe they did it because they were human and were able to overcome the teachings in the Bible that denegrate women.

    (1) Pathological sexual hatred is ingrained in Christianity. It's not really nebulous at all and it isn't from the OT.

    >Matthew 19:12 ...there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake.

    The Book of Matthew teaches specifically that self-castration is a route to heaven, which implies lots of things most obviously that God must perceive something significantly undesirable in sexuality. It warrants that any past sexual act somehow preserves a magical marker on you despite the great promise of forgiveness and ritual cleansing. Here Christianity undermines its very foundation for the sake of an anti-sexual tenet. Christians can't discount this, especially when Church fathers took it so seriously.

    The main reason why this tradition didn't catch on was because Jesus didn't actually return "soon" like he promised and so it became necessary to have children and indoctrinate them otherwise the Christian population would self-eradicate. For atheists, the fact that Jesus made the claim that he would return soon and didn't is one of the heaviest blows to Christianity. It's not worth arguing about anyting else when you made such a big mistake as that.

    >1 Corinthians 7:1 ... It is good for a man not to touch a woman.

    So Matthew 19:12 is reinforced. It isn't some random verse. There is a consistent strong message. And it's a message to men *about* women. It's never addressed to men and women together about sexuality. There is no female eunuch.

    >1 Corinthians 7:9 ... But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn.

    And again, marriage is a means to make sexuality for men excusable, otherwise the men get the ultimate punishment. There is no middle ground. Again, we atheists are bothered more by the bigger fundamental errors of the Bible like this. There is hardly a point in arguing that the Bible denigrates women, that's obvious and undeniable, but the Bible is a freak show of basic moral fallacies like this: bifurcation. You do this and you die. Period. There is no nuance. And yet you want us to see nuance which isn't there in how women are described in the Bible.

    >Revelation 14:3-4 ... No one could learn that song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth. 4 It is these who have not defiled themselves with women, for fthey are virgins. It is these gwho follow the Lamb wherever he goes. These have been redeemed from mankind as firstfruits for God and the Lamb,

    You can't underestimate the significance of Jesus' immediate return to Christians throughout history. Christians want to be firstfruits and this is the way. The firstfruits can't be women. There's something not right with women, not good enough. That's what this verse says.

    These verses here are the ones which do and have done the most harm to women, the ones you say don't exist.

    That was just your point (1).

    Tige Gibson said...

    (2) Nietzsche wasn't perfect, but he was brilliant. Perhaps the most important aspect of his writing was he was an expert at hiding his true meaning from people who didn't want to see. People argue to this day about what he meant, but not people like you, you only see the veneer. Also Sprach Zarathustra is actually about people like you which he called the rabble. No matter how many times he tried to explain to people like you, you always take the wrong message. This makes us want to give up on you, but then we come back again, and we find you still won't listen. You have to count yourself as one who does not know Nietzsche.

    When Nietzsche said weakness, he didn't mean about physical weakness. His concept of Ubermensch wasn't a physically superior man. That's the Nazi misinterpretation. The Ubermensch is a morally superior being by not being a coward, which is a purely mental state. Nietzsche's concept of slave is slavery to fear, as all slaves are for they only have to collectively rise up against their masters.

    Women were property to men, which is a euphemism for slavery, and this is a solidly OT concept with dozens of verses to back it up, starting with Genesis 2:20 when God creates a "helper" for Adam, a term consistently used for an inferior.

    The NT splits a bit as to whether women are equal or inferior, but the verses which supposedly take women as equal are interpreted very generously, and many translations deliberately use language as low as possible. As with all contradictions in the Bible, different groups of Christians pick and choose which they want to be true, the more conservative a church the lower the women. What's really ironic is when women are interpreted positively, it can be interpreted that Christians are using the seductiveness of women to recruit. Disgusting hypocrisy.

    You, like Chesteron, make the mistake of taking male narcissism as being somehow a weakness of atheists and somehow not Christians. How do you think all this denigration of women got in the Bible in the first place? It was written by male narcissists who happened to be Jews and Christians.

    (3) Normal humans value people for who they are. Look back at point (1) to see how the Bible values women. In fact why you separate this from point (1) begs the question of whether you understand what slavery even means.

    (4) >one cannot subjugate those who are already under heal, and one does not require violence to enslave those who are already slaves.

    So, no, you really have no idea what slavery or oppression are really like and you don't even care. Masters, living in fear, constantly worry about creeping freedom. Slavery can't exist in a society unless the whole society -- everyone -- agrees to it, and this is never entirely the case, but we get into the problem of cowardice. No one wants to be caught freeing a slave. Society does everything it can to maintain subjugation. This is what racism today is all about.

    >Sure, she sins first, and then after that, Adam also eats of the apple and falls.

    This is just classic Christian failure. You accuse someone of not reading what you yourself did not. Genesis literally says that God lies, even God admits it, and the serpent tells Eve the truth. When Eve eats the fruit, God's deception is exposed. Adam and Eve don't die, they are expelled from the garden to prevent them from eating the fruit of life. Even God posts guards so no one can reach it. Christians really screwed up by not reading the whole thing and basing their faith on it. Again, it's so funny we always find much stupider things in what you say than the point you tried and failed to make.

    Moses' mother (her name was Jochebed) married her own nephew. But it was ok because Moses hadn't written the law yet!

    Patrick said...

    Reading your blog someone would get the impression that Christianity has been nothing but good for women but this would be far from the truth, wouldn't it?

    Since you talk historical evidence then let's keep in mind that people burned and drowned women because of the bible. Women were treated as second class citizens or worse for centuries because of the bible. And as far as slavery is concerned it was Christians who introduced slavery into the Americas. It was only because of a war in the US that slavery was finally ended. There is no verse in the bible that states that slavery is even wrong or evil.

    You also provide no support that billions of women benefited from Christianity. What is billions? Can you be more specific as to the number of women?

    While Christianity does treat women better than some other societies other societies there is nothing surprising about this. If you look at all societies around the world they would fall everywhere along the line from bad to great in regards to their treatment of women. It would not be unusual to see that some societies treated women worse than Christianity while there are other societies that treated women even better than those in a Christian society. If you are saying that Christians treated women better than other societies because of the gospel of Jesus then what do we attribute to those other societies (such as the Greek and Roman societies) who treated women even better than those Christian societies?

    David B Marshall said...

    Patrick: Slavery was hardly unknown in the Americas before white folks (whom you call "Christians," some were) showed up. (See Rodney Stark, Secularism, RIP, on Medieval Christianity, or lack thereof.)

    But read the articles: many of your questions are answered in them. Follow the "Christianity and Women" label link, pay particular attention to, I think it is three or four. Yes, billions, and in more than one way.

    Greek and Roman societies did NOT treat women better: again, read the articles, or Rodney Stark's The Rise of Christianity.

    The Witch Hunts can, I admit, be placed on the other side of the ledger, though the causation is a little fuzzier than that, I think. Jenny Gibbon's article on the "Burning Times" (she's a neo-pagan) is balanced and enlightening. Stark and Girard also offer crucial insights on this subject.

    Yes, some cultures are better and some worse, even without the Bible, and they change in various ways. For instance, the Zhou was worse than the Shang towards women, but less inclined to bury people in tombs, towards the later Zhou, under the influence of Confucianism. I don't claim there are no other variables, nor that the "western" record is spotless, but that the Gospel did have a hugely positive influence on women around the world.

    Patrick said...

    Slavery was hardly unknown in the Americas
    I don't deny it. Rather, most every culture had some form of slavery. My point here is that Christians continued to perpetuate it rather than stop it. Christians should have been the one to stop it but they held slaves for hundreds of years instead.

    read the articles
    Interesting how you ask me to do this but when Loftus asked you to read something you refused. Perhaps I should follow your example.

    The Witch Hunts can, I admit, be placed on the other side of the ledger, though the causation is a little fuzzier than that...but that the Gospel did have a hugely positive influence on women around the world.

    The causation for the Witch hunts is not all that fuzzy. It arose in a Christian culture and religion and was based on various biblical verses. If you are going to argue, basically, that all good deeds are a result of the gospel but bad deeds, well the cause is harder to determine then you are not being objective. While it is true that Christians in the European culture developed hospitals it can easily be argued that people, in general, are nice and caring and have always been concerned about the health of others this is true in other cultures, too. Most every culture has some form of medicine. Almost every group and culture care about those in the group. Europe had science which helped them develop good medical practices.

    David B Marshall said...

    Patrick: I've read tons of stuff Loftus has put out. More than a thousand pages. It's hardly too much to ask him to read my articles, specifically written by an historian to answer his own challenge that he says is so important, and full of empirical data.

    As I explained above, since I'm analyzing the primary sources directly, if the question is what those sources say, the tertiary texts he recommend are quite unnecessary. If you want to know if there's a pig in your garden, go look: don't site obscure articles in Porcine Bimonthly Journal. But historical evidence is more diffuse, and must therefore be gathered.

    I don't argue that all good deeds are the result of the Gospel, of course. Obviously you haven't read any of my books, either. But follow the logic of Loftus & Co on other issues. They say if Christianity didn't inspire science right away, then it couldn't have been the cause later in the Middle Ages. Well Christianity didn't inspire witch-hunts right away, either.

    Furthermore, persecution of those perceived as using magic is worldwide; inventing science is not. Fear of the occult was common in Europe before Christianity arose, and there were laws against black magic and tough prosecution. In addition, there is not a hint in the NT that anyone should be persecuted for such things, or a hint of fear on the part of the heroes. And Christians are, you know, supposed to follow Christ. So yes, quite fuzzy. "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live" doesn't begin to explain it.

    Yes, there is medical care even in primitive societies. We're talking scale, here.

    Patrick said...

    (I’m another Patrick)

    Patrick: “The causation for the Witch hunts is not all that fuzzy. It arose in a Christian culture and religion and was based on various biblical verses.”

    As for Exodus 22,18, in my view it is far from clear that it played the role attributed to it with respect to witch hunts. In my view one has to show that this passage had the supposed effect. After all, for all I know, there have never been any witch hunts among Jews, and in Christianity it took about 1500 years until people arrived at the conclusion that one should hunt witches. On the other hand there had been a long tradition in Christian theology to dismiss belief in witchcraft as a superstition. The following reference from a scholarly book is very informative in this respect:

    H. C. Erik Midelfort, Witch Hunting in South Western Germany 1562-1684: The Social and Intellectual Foundations, Stanford/Cal. 1972, pp. 10-66.

    More often than not pastors preached against the belief in witchcraft, as it was contrary to the doctrine of God’s providence, according to which God sends diseases and other adverse events in order to punish sinners or to put to test the faithful, as He did with Job. Consequently, if adverse events were attributed to the work of witches instead to God its educational effect was thus undermined. For further information is this respect in the following contribution is very informative:

    Stuart Clark, Protestant Demonology; Sin, Superstition, and Society (c. 1520 – c. 1630), in: Bengt Ankarloo and Gustav Henningsen (eds.), Early Modern European Witchcraft: Centres and Peripheries, Oxford 1990, pp. 47-81.

    In the following contribution it is argued that in Denmark the decline of the number of witch trials can be put down to the activities of pastors preaching against the belief in witchcraft:

    Jens Christian V. Johansen, Witchcraft, Sin and Repentance: The Decline of Danish Witchcraft Trials, in: Acta Ethnographica Hungarica 37 (1991/92), pp. 413-423.

    Furthermore, there have been witch hunts in cultures other than the Judeo-Christian culture. As for belief in witchcraft and witch hunts in such cultures the following books are very informative:

    Bronislaw Malinowski, Argonauts of the Western Pacific, London 1922;

    Edgar Evan Evans-Pritchard, Witchcraft, Oracles and Magic among the Azande, Oxford 1937;

    Clyde Kluckhohn, Navaho Witchcraft, Boston 1944;

    Sohaila Kapur, Witchcraft in Western India, Hyderabad 1983;

    M. Stephen, Sorcerer and Witch in Melanesia, Melbourne 1987;

    Philip A. Kuhn, Soul Stealers: The Chinese Sorcery Scare of 1768, Cambridge/Mass. 1990;

    Deward E. Walker (ed.), Witchcraft and Sorcery of the American Native Peoples, Moscow 1990;

    C. W. Watson and Roy Ellen (eds.), Understanding Witchcraft in Southeast Asia, Honolulu 1993.

    David B Marshall said...

    Patrick II: Exactly. I've run across Christian ministries to those falsely accused of witchcraft on three continents, myself.